August, 2013

Our work

Our work
You might be surprised to read that our work is far broader than nature reserves and Big Garden Birdwatch. Read more about what else we do.

Bugs, Birds and Beasts in the East

All of our up to date fun and frolics in the East from office antics to great conservation stories and those magical connections with nature.
  • Inspiring our future conservationists

    Blogger: Agnes Rothon

    Can you remember what it was that inspired you to do the job that you do today or the job that you did throughout your working life? I can remember mine and I revisited it quite by accident the other day.

    I was clearing out the spare room – the drawers at the bottom of the book case were beginning to sag under the weight of the cargo that they carried. It was time to get down to the serious business of ‘having a clear-out.’ Amongst the piles of old photos, balls of knitting wool and childhood trinkets I came across the story tapes that I would listen to at bedtime when I was younger. There were some great titles in there – The Twits by Roald Dahl, Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee and then, my absolute favourite, My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. I could immediately remember receiving the double-cassette one Christmas – I must have been about eight or nine. It was the most long-lasting and value for money present my mother has probably ever given me and I fell asleep to the story many, many times over the years.

    Having found the cassette I wanted to listen again and found myself able, even now, to repeat many sections of the book word-for-word. Durrell evokes landscape and the animals that inhabit it in glorious and intimate detail. From scorpions found hiding behind crumbling brick in the garden wall to the antics of Durrell’s pet magpie the sheer wonder of a childhood spent outdoors is retold in ‘My Family’ effortlessly and beautifully.

    I wonder now whether it was my experience of this book and my kinship with it that allowed me to develop my own love of wildlife and my desire to describe this passion for the outdoors through words. I know for certain that I will pass on the chance to enjoy Durrell’s writing to my own son at the earliest possible opportunity.

    I do so hope that amongst the children of today there are the conservationists and naturalists of the future. The future of our wildlife and green landscapes depends on it. That’s why the RSPB tries to provide as many opportunities as it can to give as many children as possible the chance to experience nature for themselves. This summer holiday why not take a family trip to your local nature reserve and see what you can find? You never know – you might just be inspiring your child to become the next Gerald Durrell. 

    As featured in the Eastern Daily Press on Saturday 17 August

  • Volunteering has got me closer to nature

    Studying BSc Ecology at UEA and volunteering in the RSPB’s communications team are completely different, yet so similar – the bottom line being conservation, conservation, conservation. The past year, I have not only had the closest nature experiences of my life, but have learnt why conserving our wildlife really is so important.

    Training to be an ecologist requires a large amount of field work – something that the 15 other ecology students and I love on our course. One of the highlights this year (besides getting stuck in a marsh with leaking wellies!) was bird ringing. A bird novice, it was amazing to get so close to these creatures that we normally only see flying way above our heads or fluttering away as you walk past. Its tiny beak cheeping and chirping, it was amazing to learn how little the great tit weighed and how delicate and fragile it seemed in our lecturer’s hands. It’s easy to understand why so many people have such a great love for birds; our flying friends.

    The other side of ecology is habitats and plants – something I hear less about at RSPB, but is still a focus in their mission to create and maintain homes for nature. This summer, between volunteering for RPSB and enjoying my ridiculously long summer break, I have been completing a piece of university coursework – a wild flower taxonomic collection. Keyed-up on my ragworts, cats-ears and hawkbits, my eyes have been well and truly opened to the sheer breadth of flowers that flood our roadsides, embankments and grasslands. On one afternoon ramble to find flowers, gorgeous arrays of butterflies fluttered all around me, emerging from the surrounding foliage and stunning me with their colours and vibrancy. And there is the link – without plants and habitats, British wildlife can no longer survive. Without a ‘home’, there will be no more great tits to bird ring; there will no more butterflies on countryside walks.

    This is where conservation, conservation, conservation comes into action. Whilst the RSPB’s 200 reserves provide vital homes for nature, our own gardens are now being put under the spotlight. With gardens equalling the equivalent of 380,000 football pitches, RSPB’s new ‘Giving Nature a Home’ campaign is all about taking our local patches and turning them into wildlife-friendly, havens for nature.  With 60% of UK species in decline, now is no better time to use our spare time and space to help RSPB build a million new homes for nature.

    Please visit www.rspb.org.uk/ homes for lots of information on simple things that you can do to help make your patch a haven for wildlife. Find us on Facebook, or tweet us at @RSPBInTheEast to let us know what amazing things you do for nature where you live!

    As featured in the Eastern Daily Press, Saturday 10 August

  • A new home for glow worms

    Blogger - Agnes Rothon

    The good news is that another creature, the glow worm, has decided to call RSPB Lakenheath Fen nature reserve its home. My first experience of glow worms came when reading Roald Dahl’s classic novel James and the Giant Peach as a boy - one of the creatures that James shares his epic journey in the peach with is a glow worm.  I learnt from the book that they are curious creatures – perhaps one of the reasons that Dahl chose to include them in the first place.

    James and the Giant Peach reveals to readers that glow worms are not actually worms at all but are in fact beetles. Most adult beetles can fly, but a few, such as female glow worms and weevils have lost the ability to fly and rely on crawling to get around instead. Imagine then, the trip that the individuals found at Lakenheath Fen must have suffered to colonise a new area and start to call the reserve their home!

    The males will have had an easier time of it than the females though. Whilst the females are only able to crawl, the males are able to fly and wing their way to a mate having been attracted by her ‘glow’. The female glow worm releases this ‘light energy’ through a chemical reaction inside her cells. These chemicals also taste bad to any predators and actually cause vomiting. What males have in wingspan however they lack in luminescence; the males themselves only glow very faintly.

     Neither of the adults feed during their lifetime. The larvae do though, their favourite food being snails. The RSPB are therefore hopeful that the population of glow worms will thrive at Lakenheath - there are plenty of snails to be found on the reserve. Moreover, there is already a good number of glow worms at nearby Thetford Forest meaning that colonisation of the surrounding area isn’t out of the question. Let’s hope that more flying males will find their way to Lakenheath and that the females will be brave enough to endure the arduous journey on the ground. Reserve wardens will certainly be having a good look around the reserve at night over the next few months to see if more glow worms have arrived.

     Glow worms to garden birds, bumblebees to beetles - you too can Give Nature a Home in you garden. Visit http://homes.rspb.org.uk/ for lots of information on simple things that you can do to help make your patch a haven for wildlife. Help the RSPB build a million homes for nature! 

    As featured in the Eastern Daily Press, Saturday 3 August